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Album Review

Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Burma) Vol. 3 [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

Daryl Licht   9/24/2007   CD, International

Sublime Frequencies returns with the third volume in their ongoing series of releases documenting the folk and pop music of Myanmar. This set focuses on the ceremonial folk music created by various Nat Pwe ???orchestras???.

In Myanmar, many people still believe in a folk religion (yeah, I know, ALL religions are really folk religions; some are merely able to present a more deceptive facade of legitimacy due to their large, formal, organizational structures and their varying, but significant, levels of influence over both cultural attitudes and governmental policies, but, I digress…) based on ghost spirits called Nats. Believers participate in ceremonies called Pwes in order to pay tribute to the various Nats with the hope of enjoining their assistance or, conversely, avoiding their wrath. The music on this disc was recorded live at various Nat Pwes throughout Myanmar and features some of top practitioners of the form.

These groups use an assortment of percussion (such as bamboo sticks, bells, cymbals, gongs, wood blocks, and xylophones, in addition to a wide variety of drums) to create an incredible foundation for layers of alternately melodic and chaotic oboes and reverb-drenched vocal stylings. The resultant music is an maniacal and hypnotic vortex of authentic, organic, asian folk sounds, which have been beautifully captured on these sixteen glorious tracks. Another fine and very much appreciated release from the sonic ethnographers at Sublime Frequencies! DL

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